Hamilton Happenings: The Beehive

The end of February and March is typically my least favourite time of year. I reach my lowest lows due to lack of sunlight, fresh produce and general will to live. But last week an announcement was made that peaked my interest and excitement to unprecedented heights: a group of talented, enthusiastic young women have formed the Beehive, a craft and urban homesteading collective right here in Hamilton. In their words, they will be "focusing on handmade, DIY, and sustainability." I've been buzzing ever since! (Get it? Buzzing!)

Their first project is a juried craft fair this August 12-13th, corresponding with the James North Art Crawl. A few days prior to this announcement, I firmly decided that Dear Edna was not ready to participate in any fairs, markets or shows this summer. But it's pretty hard to resist when one sets up right in your backyard! I'm still on the fence, as all the pre-Beehive fears and misgivings still taunt me, but there are just as many positives urging me towards it as well. This would mark my very first craft fair, so if you have any advice, or pros or cons to add, please share. Pretty please! In the meantime, I better start building my inventory.

If you're interested in participating, you can find the application here.

I can't wait to see what else the Beehive has up their sleeves!

For the love of Martha

I've always had a chip on my shoulder reserved for Martha Stewart. And until recently, I realized that I had no idea why. Her unreal perfectionism and cold demeanour can be off putting for sure, but is that any reason to dismiss someone entirely, especially someone who shares many of the same passions as me? The important thing is that in the last year I opened my mind and have developed a full appreciation and implicit trust in the business, crafting, and baking savvy of Ms. Martha Stewart.

You may be surprised that my initial introduction to Martha was not through a recipe or a crafty project, but from innocently stumbling across her book on business, The Martha Rules, at my local library. I picked it up with a smirk on my face and condescendingly flipped through the chapters, not expecting Martha Stewart to teach me anything, let alone inspire my business. I was wrong. I ate it up word for word. I recommend any entrepreneurs out there to pick up a copy pronto.

Next step, Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts. When I perused this book for the first time, I literally stroked its pages, purring "prrretty". There were so many gorgeously photographed sewing projects that I couldn't wait to take on. Unfortunately I borrowed it close to the holidays, when I was too busy filling orders to be messing around with fun projects, but I made a mental note to get it out again when I have more time to play. If you caught some of my 12 Days of Christmas posts, you will have noticed I was heavily inspired by many of the holiday crafts on her website as well. Next year... next year.

And now, in the span of a week, I've tried two of her baking recipes, both of which Mikey J has named the best chocolate cake and the best cookies I've ever made! So, my dear friends, I invite you to put any judgments aside, try this one simple chocolate chip cookie recipe and join me in proclaiming "All Hail Martha" as each delightful morsel melts in your mouth. Ok, that might be going a little far, but they are pretty darn good, enough to convince me to turn to her for all my future baking needs.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

4. Serve warm, with a glass of milk or cup of tea, and your favourite book (pictured above is one I just finished - The History of Love by Nicole Krauss).

Note: I didn't use pure vanilla, light-brown sugar, or parchment paper and they still turned out delicious!

I love you more!

I'm alive! Sorry for the blogging hiatus folks. My wonderful boyfriend whisked me away to sunny Cuba for my birthday this year. Aren't I a lucky girl? We left during the biggest snow storm of the year and landed in a sunny, sandy paradise. Life can't get much better than that.

We didn't take very many pictures. Perhaps we were so relaxed that we didn't even want to reach for the camera. Or perhaps we wanted to spare blinding you with our pale Canadian skin in bathing suits. Nevertheless, here are a few.

Our resort, the Sirenis Playa Turquesa, was a beautiful oasis with no less than five pools, five restaurants, at least six bars, a private beach, and on and on and on. The food was great, the drinks were endless, our room was clean and quiet and the atmosphere was whatever you wanted it to be. By the third day in we may as well have been jellyfish.

It wasn't all napping and sunning at the Sirenis. There were plenty of recreational activities to keep you occupied. I, for one, managed to learn a new sport - archery! I must have had beginner's luck, because I came in second place in our mini tournament! Yay me! The suave archery coach, Danny, also provided lively afternoon poolside entertainment. His catch phrase "I love you more!" is perhaps our favourite souvenir from the trip.

They gave you every reason not to leave the compound, but we were rebels. Here is the super cool cab we took to "the town", which was actually a vendors' market set up outside a group of resorts. Ha! It was worth the trip, however, for the pile of shell jewellery I managed to get for a steal without bargaining at all and the interesting characters we shared a drink (or two or three) with.

Another day trip was to the city of Holguin. Auberto ushered us around in a 1950s Ford on a tour that included a beer-drinking donkey, coffee at his mother-in-law's home, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, and pork sandwiches. It was an amazing glimpse into real Cuban life. Although, I probably would have been content just gazing out the car window at the lush rolling hills of the countryside.

The city architecture wasn't too shabby either... or it was, but that was the beauty of it. I wish we had a little more time to explore here on our own, but sometimes you can't escape the kindness of Cubans. Maybe next time. Thank you Auberto!

Coming back was a definitely a culture shock, but discovering all the Dear Edna orders that came in while I was away helped ease the pain. Spring wedding season has sprung!  Which explains the rest of my absence. I've been up to my ears painting and sewing ever since I got back. I've also been experimenting with screen printing in the midst of all of these orders. In short, it's not as easy as it looks. But that's a story for another day.